Retail Workforce Could Face Permanent Decline from Pandemic, Lockdowns

As the retail industry undergoes a seismic shift because of the coronavirus pandemic, its workforce is more vulnerable than ever. Permanent store closures number in the thousands, putting them on pace to break records. Dozens of retailers have filed for bankruptcy — while others remain at risk. Meantime, a growing number of customers want to shop online and get their purchases through curbside pickup or home delivery, creating a much greater need for people to pick and pack items.

These fast-changing dynamics have led to a shakeout for workers. They’ve been hired, furloughed, laid off or assigned to new roles. Retailers, analysts and trade groups say the pandemic could change the size and makeup of the retail industry now, and for years to come.

More than one in four American jobs were supported by the retail industry before the Covid-19 crisis hit the US, according to the National Retail Federation. That made retail the largest private sector-employer in the country. (That number includes people who work directly for a retailer, like at an apparel store, warehouse or coffee shop. It also includes jobs created by the industry, such as construction workers building a mall.)

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During the pandemic, the number of workers in stores has gotten smaller, according to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics. Nearly 15.7 million were employed by retailers in February. That dropped by about 2.4 million in March and April, but recovered somewhat in May and June as stores began to reopen. About 14.4 million employees made up the workforce, as of June…  CNBC News

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